EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 13, 2013

Former Lawrence attorney accused of stealing $900K from clients

BOSTON – A now-disbarred Lawrence attorney has been indicted in connection with stealing more than $900,000 - including more than $400,000 from an elderly couple - Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

Phillip Thompson, 35, of Lawrence, was indicted today by a statewide grand jury on charges of larceny over $250 from a person over 60, seven counts of larceny over $250 and unauthorized practice of law.

“This defendant abused his stature as an attorney to take advantage of vulnerable clients,” Coakley said. “We allege that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal use.”

The attorney general's office began an investigation in 2011 after the matter was referred by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. Thompson worked as an attorney out of his Lawrence law office, primarily specializing in real estate, and also ran a debt collection agency out of his office. Authorities allege that between July 2007 and June 2011, Thompson stole more than $900,000 from at least seven clients.

The investigation revealed that Thompson represented clients in several real estate transactions, allegedly failing to pay off loans and failing to give funds to clients who were owed money.

In one case, Thompson allegedly represented an elderly man and his wife who were seeking to obtain a settlement from their insurance company after their home burned down. When the insurance company issued more than $416,000 in checks jointly to the clients and Thompson, Thompson allegedly converted the funds for his own use and the clients never received any of the money.

In another instance, a minister gave Thompson $60,000 to hold in escrow pending a closing on land that his church intended to purchase. When the closing fell through, Thompson allegedly never returned the money and kept it for his personal use.

According to investigators, Thompson continued to solicit legal business and represent himself as an attorney after he was suspended from practice in June 2010. Thompson was later disbarred in July 2012.

A statewide grand Jury returned indictments against Thompson today. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Essex Superior Court at a later date.

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